Early Florida settlers built their homes with features that we now recognize as environmentally friendly: wide overhangs to shade windows and porches, high ceilings and big, operable windows for ventilation.
That is precisely what Celebration architect Geoffrey Mouen had in mind when he designed Tradewinds, a 7,316-square-foot house built in Orlando's Baldwin Park for the International Builders' Show. This giant trade show runs Feb. 13-16 at the Orange County Convention Center and is expected to draw more than 100,000 building professionals from around the world. The home, sponsored by Builder magazine, will not be open for public tours.
"Early in the design, we analyzed the typical direction of the wind," Mouen says. "The house is designed to capture the prevailing breeze coming across the lake, through the atrium, and into the main living spaces through big doors that open up. Hot air rises through high, clerestory windows and the observation tower to help ventilate the interiors."
The goal, he says, is to keep the house comfortable without depending on "new gizmos and gadgets."
"We're using traditional methods that respond to the Florida climate," he says. "Of course, we can close the house up and use air conditioning when the weather is too hot. But our goal is to allow people to turn off the electricity for eight months of the year, open the house up and enjoy the beautiful, temperate climate."
A restaurant? A church? A school?
Combining classic and contemporary design (Mouen calls it Anglo-Caribbean influences), the house was raised 6 feet off its lakeside lot for privacy from the adjacent Cady Way Trail. Runners and inline skaters who pass by have no way of knowing that 9-foot louvered doors facing them lead to a Roman atrium, complete with fire cauldrons and a waterfall.
The residence has an unusual exterior. Some Baldwin Park neighbors thought this three-story, boxy building was a restaurant; others speculated it would hold church services. However, the design optimizes the path of the sun to create intentional solar heat gain, interior natural light and exterior shading opportunities. A standing-seam metal roof reflects Florida's harsh sunlight, while prevailing winds from Lake Susannah help keep 2,200-square feet of covered outdoor areas cool.
Fourteen windows in the observation tower draw hot air from the residence like a passive attic fan. The space is accessed by a stainless-steel staircase that resembles a contemporary sculpture.
"A lot of inspiration for the design team was a high-end yacht," says Paul Pistulka, CEO of Charles Clayton Construction in Orlando. "The stainless-steel staircase was patterned after one seen in a yachting magazine. Most people aren't used to seeing a wooden pool deck. Again, it resembles the deck of a yacht."
Dave Brown of Brown & Deddons Design Studio in Orlando took his cues from the architecture when he planned the interior furnishings for the home.
"Every show house is Mediterranean style," Brown says. "We wanted to do something fresh for this area -- simple and clean with rich materials. So we treated it like the interior of a yacht, with very little ornamentation and lots of hidden storage."
The waterfront location determined a "blue-and-gray palette with punches of color." Brown also used environmentally friendly products whenever possible.
"Shaw Industries has a Green Edge Program for carpet that is recycled and recyclable," Brown says. "So if you want to replace the carpet one day, they come and remove it at no cost, break it down and recycle it into new carpet from the fibers."
Brown also selected Epic Hardwood flooring, which is composed of wood fiber that's created in the manufacture of other products, such as sawmill byproducts that otherwise would be burned or put into landfills. Epic's 3/8 -inch-thick hardwood products use about 50 percent less newly forested wood in their production than conventional alternatives.
In addition to passive ventilation, the house boasts energy systems engineered for ultimate efficiency, a Trane air-purification system and a Honeywell dehumidification system. The builders also used low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint. Green certification is expected from the Florida Green Building Coalition, a nonprofit state corporation dedicated to improving the built environment.
To conserve resources, Earl Wilson of Tropic D�cor in Apopka planted yucca, pineapple guava trees, decorative sand cord and fakahatchee grasses as well as zoysia grass, which are drought-tolerant and require minimal maintenance. Mature, slender weavers bamboo plants outside the master-bedroom sun porch ensure privacy as well as a tropical ambience.
The home includes the latest high-performance products, too: All audio and lighting is controlled by touchpad rather than switches. Eighteen shower heads in the master bath guarantee two (or more) occupants a clean result.
The club room has a 110-inch projection television -- flanked by two 42-inch plasma sets -- but it differs from most home theaters because the floor is wood.
"The walls are padded and have extra insulation," builder Charles Clayton says. "There's a rug on the floor, but you can roll it up and use the space as a dance floor. The typical media room has planted chairs and isn't really as multipurpose."
Residential designer Clay E. Lawrence was impressed with the "Florida feeling" when he recently toured the house.
"The island style is a welcome change here, in Baldwin Park," Lawrence says. "Despite its size, there's a homey feeling to the place and a coziness to the spaces. The floor plan of this house flows so smoothly."
Clayton explains such coziness simply: "Proportions are key. Every room has phenomenal math, symmetry and balance in it."
Changing levels also make the home more livable. Walking into the foyer, with its cherry-wood floor, visitors climb a few steps to the main galleria. Just past a 17-foot island (used for informal dining) is a round table and chairs.
Visitors descend a few more steps to comfortable couches in the family living area.
"How many times do you actually use a formal dining room -- twice a year?" Mouen asks. "We've created great living spaces facing the water, but not a traditional living and dining room."
The process, however, was not always easy.
"We used coral stone from Honduras for all the exterior walkways, part of the pool deck area and even chiseled a backdrop for the waterfall out of it," Clayton says.
"About three-quarters of it had arrived before a hurricane hit Honduras last year. We had to fight with the Port of Miami, the Department of Homeland Security and everybody else to get that last 25 percent in here to finish the house."
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